UVM Police Issue Students Traffic Tickets for Underage Drinking

In the fiscal year 2001, UVM Police Services issued 1203 traffic tickets, according to their Annual Crime Statistics. The number of traffic tickets issued more than doubled from the previous year, up from 485. A number of the traffic tickets were issued for possession or consumption of alcohol as a minor, Chief Margolis said. Chief Margolis attributes the increase in citations to a larger police force. “We had officers who were in training who are now out of training…. There’s more of them out there….” UVM Police Services issued approximately 172 civil violations or criminal citations for possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor during the calendar year 2001. A civil violation for underage drinking is categorized as a traffic ticket in UVM Police statistics, according to Margolis. Students issued a University Violation Notice and a traffic ticket for underage drinking face penalties from the Office of Judicial Affairs and the State of Vermont. A traffic ticket could result in the temporary suspension of an individual’s driver’s license, fines, drug counseling and an alcohol education course. “If you choose to drink under age, you run the risk of losing your driver’s license,” Margolis said. Margolis believes that changes made in the law tying underage drinking offenses to driving privileges were motivated by a spate of drunk driving accidents that left a number of teenagers dead a few years ago. He said officers who encounter minors consuming alcohol in the dorms generally issue U.V.N.s, but do not usually issue civil violations. “UVM is not a zero tolerance community,” Margolis said. Still, he warns, “If you have a beer, you could get written up . . . Chances are, you’re gonna get a violation notice [instead of a civil violation].” Margolis claims that most of the citations and tickets issued by UVM Police for underage drinking are not given to individuals in the dorms. Margolis said that he believed that most of the tickets have been issued to non-affiliates and individuals off-campus. Usually, he said, these individuals are found intoxicated walking around the streets near campus. A brief glance at UVM Police statistics for January and February of 2002 shows that a total of 63 civil violations or criminal citations were issued by UVM Police for underage drinking. Thirty-six of those violations were issued to students in dorms. The other 29 were issued to individuals outside of dorms, on and off campus. Prior to a change in the law, officers could only issue criminal citations for individuals caught drinking underage, Margolis said. The change, which was not altogether recent, allows officers to issue either civil violations, which are traffic tickets, or criminal citations for underage drinking or for possession of alcohol. The difference between a citation and violation is significant. Violations are generally given for first time offenses for underage drinking or possession of alcohol, and violations are not considered criminal offenses. The violation becomes a crime after multiple offenses. Officers also have the ability to issue a criminal citation for the first offense, requiring an individual to appear in criminal court, facing misdemeanor charges. According to a caseworker at Chittenden County Court Diversion, individuals issued civil violations for underage drinking who have clean criminal records are usually sent to Court Diversion. These individuals face a minimum fine of $100, will be required to complete an alcohol education program, are required to undergo a drug assessment and must pay all fees associated with completion of the program. If they complete the program, the violation, which can affect insurance costs, is removed from their records. A drug assessment is an interview with a certified drug counselor intended to determine if the individual needs drug counseling or drug screening. Individuals are required to undergo any recommendations given by the counselor as a result of the drug assessment – possibly including outpatient care – before they are released from the Court Diversion program. If individuals fail to complete the program, they are sent back to court, ensuring that their driver’s licenses will be revoked temporarily. For a second violation issued when individuals get caught drinking underage, the penalties become more severe. They may include a fine up to $600, temporarily relinquishing your driver’s license, attending a driving education program, meeting with a board of volunteers who can require an individual to complete community service, 30 days in jail and a drug assessment to determine if an individual has a drug problem.